Brevard Zoo ranks eight on list of top-ten zoos in United States
By Meagan McGone
BREVARD - If you are seeking to visit one of the nation's top zoos, look no further than in Brevard County.
According to a list compiled by the popular travel-review website TripAdvisor.com, Melbourne's Brevard Zoo took the eighth-place spot of the top ten zoos in the United States, ranking right up there with the famous San Diego and Saint Louis zoos.
Keith Winsten, executive director of the Brevard Zoo, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear of the zoo's favorable rankings, especially because the reviews were based on the preferences of the people who have visited.
"We knew a lot of people loved us, but we didn't know how highly we were loved and rated by our peers," Mr. Winsten said. "We were very excited to see that."
Of the 241 reviews on TripAdvisor, most are listed as "excellent" or "very good." Mr. Winsten attributed the popular ratings to the attraction being "so much more than just a zoo."
"In addition to offering kayaking and the (aerial obstacle courses and zip-lining called,) Treetop Trek, guests enjoy the intimate experiences with nature that they get here," he said. "We are a zoo with a natural feeling. It feels more like a walk in the woods than a zoo."
Throughout TripAdvisor's reviews, users frequently rave about the Brevard Zoo's cleanliness, natural feeling, entertaining activities and small, but fun, setting.
"This zoo is just the right size," a user named FLGrandma posted on the site. "Great animals, fun train for small kids and grandparents, canoe and kayak experiences, water play area, good and healthy food. This place has it all."
Mr. Winsten said the zoo's intimate size works to its advantage.
"We're something you can comfortably do in half a day," he said. "The average time spent here by guests is 3 and a half hours. You can spend half a day here, be very relaxed, and if you want to go home and take a nap, or go to the beach, that's feasible."
He said another reason the zoo is so successful is because it continues to pass guests' expectations.
"We are still a little bit of a hidden gem," he said. "People from Brevard know of us, but people from elsewhere, who are just passing through, don't expect such a rich experience."
He added that the only higher-rated attraction in the Melbourne area on TripAdvisor is Treetop Trek, the zoo's zip-lining course.
"So we're technically ranked No. 2, but that's because we beat ourselves with Treetop Trek," Mr. Winsten said. "We hope to keep it up, so if you like the zoo, please put a positive review on TripAdvisor. If you don't, we want to know what we can do better, as well."